‘Love-Jihad part of Islamophobia’: 3-day international conference commences in Istanbul

Istanbul: ‘Love-Jihad’ in India is part of Islamophobia as the phenomenon is global not local to West, experts said at an international conference on Islamophobia in Istanbul in Turkey.

A three-day international conference, where at least 20 speakers shall discuss and give recommendations to counter the phenomenon, is being hosted by Centre for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University (IZU) in Istanbul.

During the plenary session on late Friday evening, Dr Salman Sayyid from Leeds University United Kingdom (UK) said, “(all those people) who resort to Islamophobia use same kind of practices across the world.” “(Because) they say Islam is in the wrong hands (but) whose hands are right remains an open question.”

Islamophobia is described as an intense fear or hatred of, or prejudice against, the Islamic religion or Muslims, especially when seen as a geopolitical force. Western countries have seen an upward trend in attacks on Muslims where Mosques have been attacked and Muslims attacked physically.

Islamophobia, Dr Sayyid remarked, “has to do with structures and institutions.” “New normal (about Islamophobia) is not just what is West but (it is about) those moving towards West.”

To make his point, he said, “most people, Hindus, fear in India that Muslims will outbreed them and India will no longer be a Hindu (state) and (that is why) we have come to know of newly found ‘love-jihad’ thing.”

‘Love-Jihad’, the UK academic said, “draws from the fear that it will alter the demographics of India which has more than 80 percent Hindus.”

To counter Islamophobia, Dr Sayyid impressed, “(Muslims) groups anywhere on earth have to become politically conscious and engage in political activities.”

He said that the empowerment of Muslims, in West, has to be “transformation and not to just integrate them” in to the system. “You are to be able to rewrite the society where you live in.”

Dr Sayyid was joined by Mehmet Gormez, the former head of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate, Dr Sami A Al-Arian (Director CIGA) and Dr Farid Hafez, an emerging scholar on Islamophobia from Austria.

Speaking on the role of Muslim scholars and combatting Islamophobia, Dr Gormez said, “Muslim majority nations and groups need to engage with Muslim community where ever they live in minority.”

“(But) it should not be to engage these minority groups to further one’s agenda,” he stressed.

The European Islamophobia Report (EIR), co-edited by Dr Hafez, revealed 908 crimes, ranging from verbal and physical attacks to murder attempts, targeting Muslims in Germany, as well as 664 in Poland, 364 in the Netherlands, 256 in Austria, 121 in France, 56 in Denmark, and 36 in Belgium.

Islamophobia no longer affects minorities alone, Dr Sayyid added. “It is actually changing how the state thinks of itself,” he said, citing US President Donald Trump’s travel ban on Muslims.

“What Trump has done is based on legislation which was already implemented by [his predecessor Barack] Obama,” he said.

Sayyid said that a lot of people are seeing Islamophobia “more like the falling of the masks rather than a new reality.” “(It) is rewriting what kind of a world we are going to live in; Islamophobia has to be resisted.”

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